Tag Archives: Hulk

“THOR: RAGNAROK” Review (✫✫✫✫)

SOURCE: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

We will, we will Ragnarok you.

Just when you thought Marvel had used all the tricks up their sleeve, they release Thor: Ragnarok, a movie that has absolutely no business being this good or memorable. Here is a picture which, by every metric, should have failed. It’s a Thor movie first of all, and it features the one Avenger so dull that a cardboard mannequin with a blonde wig is more interesting than him. His co-star is the Hulk, and that meshing of fantasy and sci-fi genres makes about as much sense as putting Harry Potter in a Batman movie. It’s the third part of a trilogy, which usually ends up being the worst in the series (See Spider-Man 3, X-Men: Apocalypse). On top of that, this film is a retro-comedy aiming for the style akin to Guardians of the Galaxy. How on Asgard could Marvel have pulled this off? Spectacularly, that’s how.

A sequel to both Thor: The Dark World and Avengers: Age of Ultron, Thor: Ragnarok follows our golden-haired hero Thor (Chris Hemsworth) propelled through the universe as he tries to prevent Ragnarok, the prophesized destruction of Asgard. He goes to Muspelheim to capture the fire demon Sultur (Clancy Brown), Midgard to find his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins), the Sanctum Sanctorum to meet Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Sakaar to fight the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and Asgard to face Hela, the Goddess of Death (Cate Blanchett). I’m telling you, this guy gets around. If he traveled anymore in the movie, he’d have to throw away his hammer and resort to montages for faster travel.

Here is a movie that, for the life of me, I don’t understand how it works. This film packs five different genres into one narrative, and that usually spells doom for any movie that tries to do that. Not here. Thor: Ragnarok is a funny comedy, a thrilling action movie, an exciting adventure, a heartfelt drama, and a groundbreaking superhero epic that hits every single note that it needs to. A movie this busy should not feel this simple, yet it flows and moves effortlessly, like how one stretches and plays with silly putty.

Where do I even start? The film’s director Taika Waititi executes his film chaotically yet masterfully, filling his characters with vibrant personalities and throwing them through action scenes resemblant of a little kid playing with his action figures. My main complaint with superhero movies (and really most action blockbusters in general) is that studios focus so much on the action and visual effects that they forget that character and personality is the driving force behind the successes of most major film franchises. For example, would the visual feats in Superman and Star Wars have felt as incredible if Clark Kent or Luke Skywalker weren’t as likeable of heroes to begin with?

Thor: Ragnarok takes cues from both of those movies as it emboldens its characters with electric personalities, playing off of their charisma and creating witty, comedic dialogue between each other. Chris Hemsworth continues to play the fratty, oblivious oaf in Thor as he always has, but here he does it with a self-awareness that makes him funny enough to pass it off as likeable. Ruffalo steals the spotlight in a mostly Hulk-dominated performance, yet rounds him out with a subtle arc that possesses its own somberness and tragedy within it. And Blanchett surprisingly offers up a menacing and diabolical performance in a franchise that is usually lacking in the villain presence, even though her motivations for fighting Thor are kind of weak in the film.

Everything else from the film is unorthodox perfection. Seriously. I haven’t seen anything like it. The comedy hits exactly the right notes with the right lines. The drama, while at times a little too brisk, strikes with the emotional chord that it needs to. The action scenes are thrilling. The visual effects, mesmerizing. The music, synthesized and catchy. Even the Easter Eggs are infectious in their appeal, with one cameo involving Tom Hiddleston’s Loki making me laugh so hard that my surrounding audience members started to look worried for me.

If I had any weakness to offer, it would be that the film’s tone is jarring compared to previous entries, with the series doing a complete 180 in genre from a Norse fantasy epic to an action-comedy so in-cheek that the “Who’s Line Is It Anyway?” troupe would wonder where their invite was. But to that I say screw consistency, this is a fantastic movie; one that flips one of Marvel’s most boring characters and somehow makes him the most interesting. Maybe I would be irritated by the change in aesthetic if they did this with Iron Man or Captain America, but that’s only because those characters already have an interesting arc and personality to them. Thor is more of a blank slate, and in realizing this, Waititi pulls out his paint cans and floods the screen with as much color and life as he can.

I haven’t had this much fun in a superhero movie since The Avengers in 2012. Yes, I’m comparing Thor: Ragnarok to The Avengers. Don’t knock it until you try it. While it doesn’t confront real-world issues and moral dilemmas like Iron Man, Captain America: The Winter Soldier or Civil War does, Thor: Ragnarok more than makes up for it with its stylish action, colorful visuals, brilliant self-awareness, and gut-busting humor so hilarious that it’s difficult not to pee your pants from laughing so much. This is a movie where Deadpool could appear in randomly halfway through the picture and it would still make complete sense.

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“THE AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON” Review (✫✫✫1/2)

The Avengers face judgement day. 

We are now nearing the end of Marvel’s phase two of its cinematic universe. Before Age of Ultron, we’ve seen ten of these movies now. Iron Man. The Incredible Hulk. Iron Man 2. Thor. Captain America: The First Avenger. The Avengers. Iron Man 3. Thor: The Dark World. Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Guardians of the Galaxy. You would think that by now, we would be sick of watching these movies. I know I normally would. It only took three Transformers movies for me to get sick of that franchise.

Yet, the people over at Marvel continue to find new ways to surprise me and make me once again believe in its cinematic universe. Avengers: Age of Ultron is its most recent example. The film had a near impossible task: outdoing its 2012 predecessor, which was a brilliantly woven and executed superhero masterpiece in its own right. After succeeding on a grand project that big and combining five multiverses into one fluid narrative, how are you expected to measure up to that in the sequel? Luckily, writer-director Joss Whedon is no fool. He knew what expectations were going to be had for his highly-anticipated sequel. He could have sold out and let the anticipation from the first movie roll in the bank for this one, but Whedon instead did the one thing that most filmmakers are too afraid to do nowadays: he set out to make it better.

Take the movie’s villain as Whedon’s prime example for improvement. Ultron, voice and motion performance by James Spader, is a trash-talking super-intelligent humanoid A.I. created by Tony Stark, a.k.a. “Iron Man” (Robert Downey Jr.) to protect the Earth from supernatural threats. Shortly after his creation, however, Ultron goes rogue and concludes that in order for true peace to be obtained, humanity needs to be wiped out and reborn like the animals from the dinosaur age.

On the surface, this seems like the same story for every robot-rebellion premise: a machine was created to do good, it becomes self aware, and in turn does the opposite of good. And in a sense, this is the same story for every robot-rebellion premise.

The key, however, lies in execution, and Spader as Ultron is the best super villain performance I’ve seen in a Marvel movie to date. Ultron doesn’t behave or talk like other androids. He isn’t stiff, rigid, or robotic like other mechanical characters in film are. Like any of the other live-action actors on screen, Ultron is a fluid, life-like being with his own personality and morals. He’s chaotic and radical in his thinking and behavior, acting more like a psychotic child rather than a logic-driven artificial intelligence.

Considering his creator is the egotistical Tony Stark, I can’t say I’m surprised that his personality is the same. Every Avenger in this film is just as great with each other as they were in the first Avengers movie. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is just as machismo and uncompromising as he is in any of his movies. Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) is equally as earnest and straightforward, with a few secrets that surprised even me in the theater. Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America (Chris Evans) continues his rivalrous dynamic with Stark from the first movie, their contrasting personalities rubbing off of each other so viciously that we can see how it builds up to Captain America: Civil War.

The two Avengers that have the greatest dynamic, however, are Bruce Banner, or the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). Here, their relationship expands from the first movie into a conflicted romance between the two. Romanoff is a master assassin with a past she’s neither proud to have nor able to escape from. Banner is the feeble scientist with a monster inside of him that he’s not proud of either. The two don’t feel like they can have a relationship with each other because of their different personalities, but Whedon puts them together with tragically heartfelt honesty here. He finds a connecting theme between the two, themes of loss and regret that makes them turn to each other and rely on each other. I didn’t think it was going to work when I saw these characters at first, but Whedon makes it so compelling that now I can’t see it any other way. Romanoff asks Banner a question in one scene that I think is reflective of their relationship: “Do you still think you’re the only monster on the team?”

Everything else in the movie lives up to the expectations you had in the first movie. The action is unique, visually complex, and eye-popping. The story is layered, intelligent, and dynamic, with characters bouncing witty and thought-provoking dialogue off of each other perfectly. The villain is one of the best and most unique of the Marvel universe, and there’s a few new characters introduced in the film that are done just as well as the superhero team’s main heroes.

Here’s the worst thing I can say about the movie, and really the greatest danger to the Marvel cinematic universe: I’m getting used to it. This is the 11th movie I’ve seen in the Marvel universe now, and I almost know what to expect. I know that I’m going to be surprised and shocked at some of the twists and turns. I know I’m going to enjoy the heroes and villains alike. I know that there’s going to be a lot of action with a noteworthy plot behind it. And, more than anything else, I know the movie is going to expand upon itself and its multiple follow ups.

Marvel has 11 more movies to produce after this for their phase 3, and there’s no telling how many more movies they plan to do after that. With Whedon going on record saying this is his last Marvel movie, I question how well they will be able to continue expanding this universe and doing it well. How much longer can Marvel keep pushing the envelope? I hope I don’t find out soon.

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“THE AVENGERS” Review (✫✫✫✫)

The ultimate example of comic-book superhero movies. 

I remember opening a comic book for the first time in my life when I was just a small kid. The small pamphlet fascinated me: by just a flip of a page, an entirely different world was created. A world where normal people gained super powers, wore red capes and tights, fought evil wherever it may exist, and made the world a safer place by the end of the day. In a small, poor neighborhood town where I was the only white kid in a predominantly Latino school building, it provided me a sense of relief and sanction from much bullying and torment I experienced from the other school children back in the day. It provided me freedom from the accursed world I lived in: it provided me a means of escape.

And now here I am, 15 years later, watching a live-action re-enactment of the world I discovered and loved all those many years ago. The Avengers is masterfully fantastic. It is an epic superhero tale, portraying the never-ending conflict of good and evil. It is an action movie with surprising finesse, switching from scenes of explosive energy and action to other scenes with insight, humor, and heartfelt emotion. It is a faithful re-production of multiple universes we have come to love in the past four years, and re-adapts them faithfully and full of energy in this film. But the core of this film’s success is this: that the film’s story and themes are emotional, honest, and truthful, and fleshes out its heroes to make them what they are: humans. All fighting for very human, realistic, and understandable reasons.

If you’ve seen the previous Marvel entries, you already know what this movie is about. The Avengers is a group of superheroes brought together to fight the battles that human beings never could.  Who are these heroes?  You would know most of them.

Tony Stark “Iron Man” (Robert Downey Jr): A billionaire playboy/philanthropist that has a genius-level-intellect that has allowed him to build and fight in a suit of armor.

Bruce Banner “Hulk” (Mark Ruffalo): A scientist exposed to gamma radiation, who turns into a giant, brutish beast with monstrous strength when he becomes angry.

Natasha Romanoff “Black Widow” (Scarlett Johansson): An agile and intelligent spy that is more skilled and capable than most other men.

Clint Barton “Hawkeye” (Jeremy Renner): A masterful marksman who can aim and shoot with his bow and various arrows in a matter of milliseconds.

Thor (Chris Hemsworth): The Norse God of thunder who can manipulate lightning with the power of his mighty hammer, Mjolnir.

Steve Rogers “Captain America” (Chris Evans): A super soldier frozen through time who can beat criminals to a pulp, as well as wielding a shield cast in a rare metal called “vibranium”.

You’ve seen these heroes before, most of them in their own respective movies.  All with their own stories, origins, conflicts, and themes that were explored along with their respective characters. My original worry with this film was, despite the huge expectations people were having, I was afraid this movie would let people down. It does, after all, have a lot on its plate: adapting over six superheroes into one action-packed movie is no easy task. We have Batman Forever and Spiderman 3 as evidence of that, where they had trouble of adapting even four super-powered beings to the big screen.

This film, though, has surprising finesse. Writer-director Joss Whedon adapts these characters with such child-like love and faithfulness, I feel their themes and stories from their previous films carry over to this film with them. It doesn’t feel like an adaptation, or an act of cruel financial commercialism. It lives up to the hype. The characters in this film live and breathe their uniqueness we have come to know and love from the previous Marvel movies. We feel Iron Man’s sarcasm and big ego, Thor’s sense of responsibility and brotherhood, Banner’s fear, frustration, and anger, and Steve’s sense of honor, patriotism, loss, and duty. Through the film’s dialogue and references to prior films, we sense Whedon’s pure intentions underneath the action, and we respect it. We realize he isn’t making just another action movie; he is making a superhero movie.  One with upmost faithfulness and loyalty to its own universes.

Impressive also, are the actors, but I don’t need to tell you that. We’ve seen them in prior films, so we already know they are good. I will comment then, on something we haven’t seen yet: their chemistry with each other. My word. This is what makes the Avengers, The Avengers. The actor’s chemistry with each other is spot-on, and in-tune. Whether it is a scene involving humorous, sarcastic dialogue, or another scene with painful realism and emotional truth to it, there is reality being shown in every single shot when an actor is with another Avenger on-screen. I can’t accurately describe it to you and do it justice. You need to see the film to understand their relationship with each other.

People are also wondering, of course, if the visual side of the film delivers. The answer is yes, but it isn’t just because it looks great; it is because of how they handled the great visuals they had for this picture. Too many times are we given films that have great visual CGI and explosions to overwhelm the audience with, but we have no suspense, excitement, or surprise to go along with it. It doesn’t make for an entertaining film. All that is left is a predictable action film that’s empty amidst the flat storytelling and redundant action sequences that just shows one explosion after another.

The Avengers isn’t like that. It doesn’t use its action as an excuse to fall flat and give up on entertaining its audience. Its excitement is relentless. Its suspense builds, and builds, and builds until we can take it no longer.  We scramble in our seat as we attentively watch what will happen next for our heroes.

This is the kind of excitement we need in superhero movies: the kind that is reminiscent of those kids watching Saturday morning cartoons, the ones that have you sitting on the edge of your seat with your bowl of “Captain Crunch” in order to see if your favorite hero does, in fact, save the day. It is this suspense and tension that builds The Avengers to incredible cinematic heights, and makes for some truly entertaining, memorable, and iconic moments in the picture.

The Avengers is the ultimate example of a comic book superhero movie. Whedon has a great subject to play with, sure. But his film is a great one not because he solely depends on the idea to be successful. This film is a success because he treats it the way it is supposed to be treated: as an exciting action-blockbuster that retains humanity to its characters, spirit to its humor, and excitement in its own story. I know somewhere in this world, some little ten-year old kid will watch this movie, and will one day be inspired to make his own superhero movie. It’s kind of depressing, though. It doesn’t really get much better than this.

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DC Versus Marvel: Why “The Justice League” Will Not Be As Successful As “The Avengers”

Well, this’ll ruin your morning coffee.  Due to recent developments, I am now convinced that no matter what DC does, that the much-speculated Justice League movie will not be as unique or outstanding as Joss Whedon’s The Avengers was, is, and always will be.  Why all the pessimism?  Call it intuition.  Before The Avengers cinematic universe was conceived, Marvel had a wider grasp of successful projects to boast of, including (but not limited to) SpidermanX-menBladeWolverine, Kick-Ass, and Men In Black.  DC, in comparison, only has SupermanBatman, and arguably RED and Watchmen as their most successful properties.  Also, I have an unhealthy amount of OCD.  Just thought you should know.

Believe me, I would like nothing more than to see a well-made Justice League movie hit the horizon.  There are as many characters that are as creative and dynamic in the DC universe as there are in the Marvel universe, many of them with memorable stories and villains of their own.  While I want to see a movie eventually, I now believe it will not happen, and if it does, it will not hit the mainstream success that The Avengers did.

Why am I so convinced of this?  DC has every inconvenience against them, and they have to deal with issues Marvel never had to face while producing The Avengers.  I’m not saying Marvel had it easy while making The Avengers.  Lord knows you’ll have a fair amount of doubt and backlash when you try to combine five comic-book properties into one high-adrelanine, action-packed adventure.  Regardless, DC is facing a lot of issues Marvel didn’t have to worry about, including competitive release with The Avengers in itself.

Let’s face facts: When The Avengers was released, we didn’t know what to expect.  All we knew was that it was incorporating six superheroes into one movie, they would be mostly featuring the same actors, the writer/director of “Firefly” was at the helm, and we were hoping it wouldn’t turn into the Saturday Morning Power Hour.  It didn’t, and now we have the exciting, exhilerating, witty, and entertaining Hulk-box-office-smash that The Avengers was.

This is the biggest issue that DC has over Marvel: the comparison game.  If DC would have thought of a plan similar to this ahead of Marvel and released Justice League incorporating elements from multiple DC universe movie properties at once, they would then have had a substantial edge over Marvel and would give them reason to compete for their box office revenue.  But the plain simple fact is that Marvel beat them to it, and now we have something to compare to when Justice League hits the theaters.  How big of a catastrophe is that?  What could possibly compete with The Avengers as far as box-office superheroes go?  I’ll name a few just for facetious effort: X-menFantastic Four, and Watchmen.  Now be honest with yourself: do any of those movies stand out in your mind at the level of enjoyment as The Avengers does?

If you’re being honest, it probably doesn’t, and what’s worse is that DC is now pressured into that because Marvel did it first.  But like I said, DC has a lot of issues against them, and many of them have to deal with their very own properties.  Take the following franchises as an example:

THE DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY

If we were talking about the movies by themselves, there’s no reason for concern.  The Dark Knight trilogy is among the greatest trilogies ever released into theaters, and it not only pleased long-time fans of the caped crusader: it pleased moviegoers who were not associated with the comic books.  The Dark Knighttrilogy isn’t only one of the best comic book movies of all time: they one of the best movies of all time, period.  Very few bad things are said about that franchise as a whole.

Which would enhance excitement to the fans when they think this same character will be incorporated into the Justice League, right?  Wrong.  Producer/Director Christopher Nolan and screenwriter David S. Goyer have stated multiple times that the Batman in the new Justice League is not associated with Nolan’s trilogy.  The quote from Goyer pulled from IGN says it all:

“…Zack has said that Bruce Wayne exists in this universe. It would be a different Bruce Wayne from Chris’ [Nolan] Dark Knight trilogy, and it would be disingenuous to say that Zack and I haven’t had various conversations on set, around ‘what if’ and ‘moving forward'”.  

On top of that, Christian Bale himself admitted to Entertainment Weekly that not only will he not be portraying Batman in the upcoming DC team-up film: he doesn’t even know about a release date.

“I have no information, no knowledge about anything. I’ve literally not had a conversation with a living soul. I understand that they may be making a Justice League movie, that’s it”.  

So what is their plan?  End a movie series in 2012, release a Superman movie in 2013, and reboot the character only a few years later?  Don’t they remember how many people saw those movies?  How much people praised them?  How those movies stuck out in people’s minds when someone mentioned the word “Batman”?  What are they thinking?  How on Earth do they think can they replace that?

Now, someone could offer the argument by saying Nolan’s universe was meant to be seen as realistic, whereas the rest of the DC universe wouldn’t be.  To which I respond that as hogwash.  Snyder also saidMan Of Steel was meant to be seen as realistic too, but we all know how realistic it is for an alien from outer space to get super powers on earth, or having a guy dress up in a halloween costume to beat criminals to near death.  The thought of superheroes in itself is fictitious, with powers or without.  So why are we trying so hard to differentiate in between reality and fiction?

Another possible argument someone could make is that The Dark Knight trilogy has ended, and there would be no way to revive the character for the Justice League.  To which I would say you are half right.  If we are talking about the Batman after The Dark Knight Rises then yes, that Batman is no more with us. But what about the Batman in between movies?  There is a two-year split in between Batman Begins andThe Dark Knight, and a five-year split in between The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises.  Surely, someone could find room to fit Nolan’s Batman into the JL somewhere in that time stamp?

So, already you have your greatest property and you’re sending it out the window.  That’s great.  What else could go wrong?

MAN OF STEEL

I’m just going to go ahead and say this: Man Of Steel was a great film.  It had depth, it had character, it had development, and it had plenty of high-octane turbulent action.  It was a great reboot for Superman, and it was a great jump-off point for a possible Justice League series.  That much I will give to Snyder and his crew.

The complications with the Justice League universe, however, are plenty.  The biggest issue right now is their speculated release dates.  As many of you might expect, Warner Bros. has been trying to push for the Justice League movie to be released in 2016, to be released competitively with The Avengers 2 andStar Wars: Episode VII.  The original plan was to release Man Of Steel this year, release a possible sequel in 2014-2015, and then release the Justice League movie

That puts a great amount of pressure on Man Of Steel, and I don’t think it can handle it.  Again, not to play the comparison game with Marvel (even though I am), but like Man Of SteelIron Man was a great jump-off point for The Avengers, even though it was more charismatic and down-to-earth than Man Of Steel was.  It was a great film.  Great enough to jump right into The Avengers though?  Absolutely not.  It had to release four more movies before the buildup to the Avengers was complete and the excitement was at its highest.

Like Iron ManMan Of Steel is a great film to set up its expanded Universe.  Enough to jump right into aJustice League movie though?  Not even close.  Another sequel, maybe, but to jump right into the DC-team-up film would be suicide.  The announcement of a JL movie that this point wouldn’t be an anticipation: it would be a surprise.  How is that a good setup for a box-office smash?

Also, many other audience members felt the tone was too serious and did not fit into the joyous, silly veins of the original Christopher Reeve series.  To which I would say quit being a stooge and enjoy the movie for what it is.  People who wanted Green Lantern to be fun and silly got what they asked for, and look at how that movie faired with the moviegoing audiences.

Speaking of which…

GREEN LANTERN

Many people hated this movie, and their hate was warranted.  Green Lantern was silly, stupid fun, and that’s all it needed to be.  I for one enjoyed the movie and appreciated it for its confidence, its stellar visual effects, and its smirking charisma.  Others, however, obviously do not share my opinion, and ultimately their opinion as a whole matters more than mine does.

To which I know disregard and ask this: what are you going to do with him now for the Justice League?  They can’t bring this same character in and have him do the same thing he did the first time: that will resurrect everything audiences hated the first time they watched the Martin Campbell film.  What are they going to do then?  Are they going to revamp him?  Recast him?  Reboot him?  Maybe even cut him out entirely?  Batman has a great story behind his success and Superman a great following.  Green Lantern has none of that.  So what can DC do to the character to give him a new spin and a spirit on the franchise?

The list of issues goes on and on.  How are they going to incorporate Wonder Woman into it?  What about the Flash?  Martian Manhunter?  Who would they cast?  Who would be the villain?  And how on Earth are they going to make Aquaman not look stupid???  

Bottom line: Justice League will not be as good as The Avengers.  DC just isn’t prepared for it.  There is the off-chance that it can still be good, exciting, and entertaining blockbuster fun, but I’m convinced that there’s no way that DC can give these characters the same treatment Whedon did for The Avengers solely because they won’t be as recognized as those characters have.  Even if you do give each Justice Leaguer his own movie and give time to set up each character: how do you know you’ll be as successful as The Avengers was?  Won’t you be following a formula at that point?

Of course, there is the off-chance that I’m completely wrong and that the Justice League will be vastly more successful than The Avengers will be.  I’m going to see it regardless of what RottenTomatoes says, and I hope it’ll at least be as good as Man Of Steel is.  But that’s unlikely, and no matter how it turns out, lets just be grateful that Robert Schwentke won’t be directing, writing, or having anything to do with the movie.  The last thing we need is a PG-13 version of RED.

Oh, wait a minute.

Source: EMPIRE, Entertainment Weekly, IGN
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